BB at Duke City Fix, 8.17.16: NM PED Follies

(Note: This week’s BetterBurque does Duke City Fix post gets Scot back in the mire that is New Mexico K-12 Education. Haz Mat suits are recommended.)


Today is Day Five of the year in most Albuquerque Public Schools. As a former APS teacher, I say Happy Day Five, Folks! It is also roughly Day 5,000,000 since the New Mexico Public Education Department went with the spiffy website design you see excerpted above.

For some, no website can induce a bigger level of fear, loathing and PTSD than this one. At the same time, no website, not even one which only announces the “domain is for sale” is more lacking in information. Try it, I dare ya. Find what you are really looking for regarding anything educational in New Mexico at the PED website.

Thus, the PED website captures perfectly the organization for which it was designed, a fear, loathing and PTSD-inducing entity that achieves much of its effect by telling everyone nothing.

And yes, that picture of eventual PED Secretary Hanna Skandera has not been changed since she took the job sometime back in the mid-1300s. I think she arrived on the boat with the rats carrying the Black Death, as I recall. I could be wrong.

Yesterday’s Albuquerque Journal has a story by reporter Kim Burgess which, again, sums up how PED “operates.” I put the word in air quotes because our state educational leadership doesn’t really “operate” in any known sense or meaning of the word. A better word might be “machinates,” or “schemes,” but those terms connote some semblance of knowing what the Hell one is doing.

While many of my former teaching colleagues firmly felt and feel that Secretary Skandera and PED know exactly what they are doing in furthering the destruction of K-12 education in New Mexico, my research and experience strongly indicate this is not the case. The whole “operation” is much closer to a Don Knotts-level confederation of dunces.

Take, for instance, the subject of yesterday’s Journal story, PED’s dictate of a last-minute switch from the reviled DIBELS reading test for K-3 students to the new, shiny, and online Istation. The switch is classic PED, combining impeccably bad and inadequate timing of the roll-out, a failure to listen to anyone who complains, and a lack of Journal follow-up when Orwellian titled “Spokesperson” Robert McEntyre unspeaksdoublegood:

PED spokesman Robert McEntyre said the department is working with districts and charter schools to ease the transition, noting that it extended the first testing window from the usual 15 days to 30 days as an accommodation.

So magnanimous. Those extra 15 school days should be a technological breeze, knowing the condition and number of devices many elementary schools have. Have fun setting those up in your “spare” time teachers and administrators! Of course, most of the computers, tablets and whatnot only arrived to do online standardized testing in the first place.

And doesn’t every K-3 kid in APS have at least four online devices at home? This obviously being the case, training kids to take the test should be a snap, except for when it won’t because the Kindergartner doesn’t have a cell phone, iPad, laptop and desktop in their homeless shelter or extended stay hotel room. Maybe those kids will get the basic idea by the third of the three required test sessions each school year.

As I exclaimed above: Happy Day Five, Folks!

Meanwhile, New Jersey and Colorado have released PARCC scores from Spring 2016 testing. When will PED release New Mexico scores? Let’s look at the PED website to find out! Okay, that was sarcasm, and, sure enough, a look at “Top News” from PED is just as great a waste of time as is clicking on any webpage link at PED.

It is worth noting that PARCC, a testing consortium of fewer and fewer states, has Secretary Skandera as Chair of its Board, and that a big selling point in Year Two of PARCCopalypse was that scores would be available much sooner than the mid-October release last year. Well, it’s now mid-August, and Day Five of the school year. We’ll see how “soon” is sooner in New Mexico.

Until then, elementary teachers won’t have the amazing insights into their students that PARCC scores will most certainly provide, but that, fortunately, frees them up to train kids on Istation. And yes, using the words “train” and “station” reminds us that K-12 education is all about sticking to the tracks of standardized testing, constantly clanging into one testing station after another, ever less and less able to teach anything but testing.

Happy Day Five, Folks!

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